By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
Dollar signs trumped community consensus as City council succumbed to the lure of greater revenue and doubled the rate of downtown parking meters.
A motion was passed Monday night in the regular council meeting at City Hall — forgoing vetting a parking meter hike through a public meeting on the budget next week — to raise parking rates from 50 cents per hour to one dollar.
The lure of greater revenue convinced a majority of council to pass the motion to raise meter rates, instead of gathering public input on it through the venue of a public meeting.
Mayor John Dooley had asked council at the outset of the motion if they would consider holding off adopting the rate hike for one week until they had time to hear from people at the public meeting on the budget on Feb. 22.
Coun. Kim Charlesworth immediately said council did not have to wait for the open house on the budget, and they could push ahead with the rate hike immediately.
“This won’t be popular with the residents and I expect that is what we will hear,” she said. “I don’t think we need to wait on this one. Operationally, it will be easier if we go ahead.”
She said it was really important for people to understand that one reason council chose to raise parking meter rates was to spread the burden of collecting the revenue from taxpayers to those who utilize the roads — including people from out of town.
It is the cars that are causing the deterioration of the roads, and that is what this money goes towards, she said. The money collected from parking meters is used to help fund the $600,000 street re-paving line item for the City each year.
But Coun. Robin Cherbo said a meter hike would negatively affect the downtown core and the businesses that comprise it. A raise in parking rates would not be the impetus to get people out of their cars and find alternate transportation, he noted.
He agreed with the mayor that council should wait until the public meeting on the budget and let people have their say.
“The public has a right to bring their concerns over this,” Coun. Cherbo said.
The reason the parking meter rate rise was brought forward one week before the open house, said City manager Kevin Cormack, was City staff needed lead time for planning for the move.
“From a staff point of view we like to move this forward and start that planning,” he said. “But if you wanted to wait and adopt it later, it won’t be a huge impact.”
But Coun. Donna Macdonald thought it would have a huge impact.
“It’s pretty clear that we need this revenue ... and it brings some money from the folks from outside of the city,” she said.
Coun. Macdonald felt the lure of Baker Street — its eclectic collection of shops, cafés and restaurants — would overcome any sort negative effect the higher parking rates would elicit.
“If we do delay, we have to realize we are losing revenue for every week that we delay,” she noted.
Coun. Deb Kozak said she would use the resources of the Nelson and District Economic Development Partnership to investigate what effect the higher rates would have on downtown businesses.
The motion passed. Coun. Cherbo was recorded opposed.
Two 2011 budget open house sessions will be held at the Nelson Municipal Library on Feb. 22. Come out and give the City your feedback on the proposed budget.
For more details please click here [PDF - 65 KB].
For those who don’t like the parking meter hike
There is now a Facebook petition drawn up on the parking meter hike: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/home.php?sk=group_188445907845308&ap=1
You can download the petition as a pdf at: http://www.blndesign.com/nelsonparking.pdf